Managing Stakeholders: The Myth and the Reality

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at markmullaly.com.

Imagine the perfect project:
 
The organization faces a key challenge. Stakeholders quickly rally to the cause. Consultations are held, requirements are defined and all involved find constructive ways to compromise, balancing their needs with those of the larger organization. A fully agreed upon statement of requirements is put in place, and work begins on the solution. With clarity and guidance already firmly established, progress is made rapidly and a responsive solution is deployed to a waiting and eagerly adoptive community. Business results are exceptional, and everyone looks fondly back on the project experience, wishing they could do it over and hoping that there will be another one like it.
 
Alright, nap time’s over. Wake up princess…time to quit daydreaming, it’s back to reality. We all know project life isn’t really like that, so there’s no point in really hoping, is there?
 
But why not? What is it about projects and organizations that make what should be a simple, straightforward exercise so unattainable? After all, if we all desire the outcome, why shouldn’t it be easier to attain? What is it about projects that make negotiating and gaining agreement on stakeholder requirements so uniquely and perversely difficult? And what can be done to make the process easier?
 
Probably one of the biggest …

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"The rule is perfect: In all matters of opinion, our adversaries are insane."

- Mark Twain

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